Professional Development

Staying Ahead of the Game

A recent report released by The Department of Statistics Malaysia has revealed that the number of unemployed in November 2021 has been reduced to below 700,000 persons for the first time, the lowest since April 2020. Surely a cause for celebration, right?

Except not really, since unfortunately underemployment and low-paid jobs are also increasing, and employment has to be linked with wages. Otherwise, “we get more people employed on lower wages and that is not so positive as the numbers suggest” – quoting the Malaysian University of Science and Technology’s Institute of Post-graduate Studies dean Dr. Geoffrey Williams – as said to The Malaysian Reserve.

In other news, The World Economic Forum (WEF) warns in The Future of Jobs Report 2020 that recession and the robot revolution may displace 85 million jobs by 2025. There is a silver lining though – an estimated 97 million other jobs would be created, especially in industries requiring soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, reasoning, and communication.

And in other news? The 2021 Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Salary Survey for Executives and Non-Executives found that English proficiency is among the top five skills that employers look for when hiring. In fact, those with good English language skills enjoy greater career benefits, including higher starting salaries, faster progression through job grades, better salary increases, and more opportunities for global postings or assignments.

So how is this news connected?

To us, these are clear signs that if there was ever a good time to reskill and upskill, it would be now. Of course, there have been a lot of conversations in recent years about the importance of upskilling and reskilling, but nothing compares to how the pandemic has accelerated the need for effective and efficient upskilling and reskilling programs.

The WEF says that to keep their jobs in the next five years, 50 percent of workers will need to reskill. In fact, by 2022, 42 percent of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change.

Furthermore, the gap between what the academic institutions deliver and what organizations need has widened so much in recent years, that hiring and recruitment in Malaysia have essentially become a battleground in which companies are fighting to hire the best talents from a shrinking pool, and it does not even end there – talent retention efforts come next. Some organizations have even taken matters into their own hands by going beyond the normal office perks and providing and creating a culture of continuous learning that focuses on professional development.

Organizations are having to reconsider who they are, what they do, and who their customers and competitors could be. But the onus should not be on organizations alone. In order to thrive in the near future, even individuals must find ways to assimilate with technology and focus on adding the right skills. Moving forward, this could be the only way one could enhance their employability.

It is a race against time, and as the adage says, time slows for no one. In this case, everyone in the workforce – even the C-level executives – is not exempted from adding skills to their professional repertoire.

Human Resource

To Return, or not to Return: The Workforce Dilemma

We hope it is not too late for us to begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. 2021 – what a year that was! In many respects, 2021 was more challenging than the previous year, with new COVID variants seemingly popping up every few months, plans were throttled, and many had to deal with a climate disaster as the year came to its end. Uncertainties continue.

Perhaps one of the biggest uncertainties coming into the year 2022, is whether this semblance of normalcy can carry on. Cinemas have reopened, dining-in is now allowed again, and a lot of celebrations have resumed. A huge chunk of the 16.08 million labor force in Malaysia has also returned to its workplace.

In 2022 however, new variants such as Omicron are delaying the reopening of country borders, and at the same time put brakes on many organizations’ return-to-office plans. Bosses groups such as the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) are pushing for the continuation of the hybrid workforce model for businesses that can afford to. About 61.7% of companies surveyed by MEF also indicated that they would continue to implement this hybrid work arrangement.

The hybrid work arrangement, however, isn’t without challenges. Team building, interaction, and discussion become limited, just to name a few. Hence, it is absolutely vital that employees be armed with the necessary skills for a successful hybrid workplace. With hiring and talent retention becoming increasingly difficult in the recruitment battleground nowadays. It is imperative that business leaders show their workforce that it will also support their longer-term professional development.

How then, to train and teach your hybrid workforces? We would like to share with you three simple tips.

1. Customize the Content for Your Team

Take note of the communication challenges that plague the team the most. For example – responding to an angry customer’s email used to be easier when the whole team is gathered at one place to brainstorm a solution. How then, to ensure that the same dynamic could be replicated even when the team members are in different locations?

2. Harness the Right Tools

It goes without saying that Zoom meetings and other virtual meeting platforms are now a huge chunk of many people’s professional lives. Utilize the platforms to conduct virtual training sessions with the team, and ascertain the most conducive way for focused, productive learning where all users can learn, ask questions and provide feedback within the same session. Depending on the topic, if self-directed learning through on-demand modules or instructor-led, face-to-face training sessions could be more effective – so be it! Do also be conscious of your employees’ time – some can’t afford to sit through a two-hour virtual classroom, especially if their work requires them to jump in and out of Zoom meetings all day.

3. Better Interaction, Better Communication

With work environments now existing virtually anywhere. It can be challenging for existing employees and new hires to bond, and the culture can start feeling disparate. Cliques could form, and favoritism could occur, and this could potentially poison the company culture. In order to avoid polarization, it’s important to provide a space where social interaction could happen. Create a space where knowledge can be discussed, evaluated, and applied, and where people can interact and build relationships.

With the hybrid workplace becoming the norm for many in the foreseeable future. Having a strong and solid foundation would help employers in navigating a smoother, more effective hybrid work arrangement. Employees would also be able to enjoy greater control, flexibility, and freedom in terms of their work arrangement.